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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hamas men shoot 4 Fatah demonstrators in Gaza

Last update - 14:13 12/12/2006

Hamas men shoot 4 Fatah demonstrators in Gaza

By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service, and news agencies

Hamas security forces opened fire on stone-throwing Fatah demonsrators in the
southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, wounding four Fatah activists on
Tuesday, one day after the killing of three children of a Fatah-linked
official raised the specter of civil war.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered security forces to deploy
across Gaza on Tuesday after the killing of the young sons of one of his
loyalists shocked Palestinians.

A senior official from Abbas's Fatah faction, Hussein al-Sheikh, said Tueasday
that the Hamas government bore responsibility for the drive-by shooting.

"Of course people very close to Hamas to say the least are behind the
killings. We hold the government and the interior minister directly
responsible," Sheikh said. "These are mafias, killer gangs," he added,
referring to the perpetrators of the drive-by shooting.

Senior Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri angrily denied the militant movement had
anything to do with the attack.

"It seems some Fatah leaders are exploiting the blood of innocent children to
earn political gains. We hold those leaders fully responsible for the grave
consequences that may result from the fabrication and lies they are making."

Abbas deploys heavily-armed forces
Early on Tuesday, heavily-armed members of Abbas's security forces took up
positions around key installations and road junctions in Gaza City.

"Palestinian security forces deployed in all streets of Gaza City to prevent
crime. This was upon orders from President Abbas," said one Palestinian
security source.

A force loyal to the Hamas government also strengthened its positions. There
was no immediate sign of friction between the Abbas and Hamas loyalists, but
fear of fresh clashes deepened sharply on Monday.

It was the first time that children have been targeted in such an attack.
Angry mourners firing guns stormed the parliament compound during the funeral
for the boys, aged 6 to 9.

A senior Palestinian intelligence official in the occupied West Bank said it
was unclear who was behind the attack on Colonel Baha Balousha's children.

Besides internal political unrest, Gaza is riven with clan fighting and a
surge in crime following a Western aid embargo on the Hamas government that
has deepened poverty.

Political tension has been rising over the failure of Hamas and the formerly
dominant Fatah movement to form a unity government that Palestinians hope
might end the Western boycott.

Abbas aides said on Saturday the chairman planned to call early elections
after talks on a unity government foundered.

Hamas accused Abbas of trying to topple the government.

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